Aluminum car doors, frames: Industry's "next frontier": Alcoa

Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:05pm EDT
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By Chris Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The global push to improve fuel efficiency in vehicle fleets will more than double the demand for aluminum in the auto market by 2025, Alcoa's (AA.N: Quote) director of automotive marketing said Wednesday.

Car makers from BMW to Audi have already started to react to the so-called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and are beginning to move away from heavier steel body frames to lighter-weight material in what should be the "next frontier" for the aluminum industry, Randall Scheps told delegates at the American Metal Market's Aluminum Summit in New York.

"Car makers are basically reacting to increases in fuel economy requirements and regulations. Every major market around the world is tightening fuel standards," Scheps said.

"We have every car maker calling us, wanting to increase their aluminum content, wanting to start new R&D (research and development) projects about how they can convert bodies from steel to aluminum, wanting to convert hoods and doors from steel to aluminum."

German auto maker BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) has steadily been increasing its use of the metal in recent years.

"It's an unprecedented time in the aluminum industry, and car bodies are the next frontier," Scheps said.

He anticipated this transition from steel-bodied frames to lighter-weighted aluminum to more than double the industrial metal's overall rate of consumption in the auto market from 11.5 million tons in 2011 to 24.8 million tons by 2025.

By then, the amount of aluminum in an average car will grow from the current 343 lbs to 550 lbs.   Continued...